Saturday, 23 March 2019

Whatever you do, please don't catch our train

Eurostar has advised passengers not to travel from London to Paris unless absolutely necessary, for the rest of the month of March.

The rail company issued a statement saying: "Due to industrial action by French customs, we are experiencing lengthy queues at Paris Gare du Nord station and expect this to continue until the end of March.

"We strongly recommend that you do not travel during this period unless necessary.

"Please, also note that we are unable to offer our priority check-in service."

Passengers have reported queues of up to six hours over recent days and several services a day between Paris and London have been cancelled, the Travel Mole news service reports. 

A work-to-rule protest began on March 4 and was originally scheduled to finish on March 20. It has now been extended.

Up to three services a day continue to be cancelled for next week.

Eurostar reminded passengers: "Please be aware that availability is currently limited so your first choice of train may not be available."

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Lounge access for those on the cheapest of economy fares

Travelling on a cheap economy ticket but left with several hours to kill at Sydney or Melbourne international airports?

International luxury airport lounge brand No.1 Lounges has announced that travellers from Sydney and Melbourne airports without frequent flyer status or lounge access will be able to book access to its flagship brand The House.

A one-off payment, with no membership rules, will ensure lounge access regardless of the airline they are travelling with or class of ticket held.

Starting from $80 person (which is a fair whack, it must be said), the new concept will allow travellers to relax in first-class comfort for up to three hours prior to departure, with the option to buy additional hours online in-advance or during their visit.

The lounges offer a choice of seating areas, airport views, showers, and unlimited wifi, as well as television, newspapers, glossy magazines and charging points as standard.

Guests will enjoy white-linen a la carte dining, a fully tended bar (offering premium wines, beers and spirits, Champagne and classic cocktails) and barista coffees.

No.1 Lounge’s founder Phil Cameron said: “Australia is one of the world’s great travel destinations, and both Sydney and Melbourne airports are two of the very best international gateways. I am delighted we are able to offer a premium international departure to everyone.

“Whether travelling for a special occasion, holiday or work, we look forward to welcoming all passengers into our beautifully designed lounges.”

The House at Sydney Airport is located in the heart of Sydney Airport’s international Terminal 1 and has 120 seats with immediate views of Gate 51 and the runways beyond

The House at Melbourne Airport (below) is located in Terminal 2, has 140 seats and offers runway views.

No.1 Lounges created The House concept in conjunction with Etihad Airways as part of an international collaboration, which has also rolled-out at London’s Heathrow Airport.

No.1 has also partnered with Virgin Australia, which offers The House to all its eligible international passengers.

Travellers can book online at or visit The House in person to purchase access on the day. Access costs $80 online and $90 on the door.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

What the Tasmanian tourism industry doesn't tell you

Bus services are good in Hobart
Tasmania is a hugely popular tourism destination for both domestic and international visitors. 

It has beautiful scenery, a thriving wine and food culture and amazing wilderness experiences.  

But if you want to explore any more of Tasmania than downtown Hobart and Launceston then you'll either need to bring your own vehicle over on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry, or rent a car on arrival. 

The bad news is that car rentals can be expensive in Tasmania, as it petrol, and that cars can be in short supply in peak periods. 

But you are quite happy to use public transport, you say. That would be fine, except Tasmania has hardly any public transport infrastructure. 

Trains? No commercial services at all. None. Nada. 

Trams: Not a sausage. Zero. 

Light rail: There have been years of debate about whether to build light rail between the Hobart waterfront and North Hobart. So far, nothing has happened. 

Buses: A few in the two major cities and surrounds, but very few to regional areas or between cities. 

The state government is putting a lot of effort into promoting the Huon Valley region south of Hobart after recent fires. 

Should you wish to visit the town of Cygnet, with its art galleries, cafes and waterfront bird reserve, there are three buses a day from Hobart. Three. That's it. Miss a bus and you have a four-hour wait. 

Travelling from Cygnet back to Hobart? Your choices are the 10.25am, or the 2.31pm, which doesn't go all the way to Hobart. That's it. 

Thinking about taking a bus from Hobart to the much-promoted seaside town of Strahan, on the West Coast? 

A West Coast to Hobart trip goes via the north coast and is a minimum 23-hour trip, involving an overnight stay en route. 

Even a trip between the two biggest cities is a chore. There are two, or a maximum of three, coach journeys each day between Hobart and Launceston. 

The message to tourists visiting clean and green Tasmania is clear. Hire a car - and book well in advance.


Now add tea to Tasmania's list of gourmet beverages

Tasmania is known for its fine cool-climate wines, ciders and artisan spirits.

The Apple Isle is also well known for its apples, berries and cheeses, as well as more recent gourmet additions including avocado, wasabi and saffron.

Tasmania’s innovative producers are finding great success with unexpected crops, now including tea.

In the hills south of Hobart at Allens Rivulet, there’s a sight you would expect to see in Sri Lanka, or Darjeeling – a tea plantation, Brand Tasmania reports.

Not only is it the only tea plantation in Tasmania, but it’s also the most southerly one in the world.

What’s more, Tasmania’s pioneering tea farmers, scientists Jane and Dr Gordon Brown, are convinced there is great potential for tea to join the list of our valuable crops.

“Tasmania is an ideal place to grow tea,” Gordon says. “Currently there is a world shortage of tea and huge demand for the product. So yes, tea could become one of our important crops.”

After water, tea is the most widely consumed drink in the world, worth a staggering $US 50 billion each year.

China is the powerhouse producer, followed by India, where much of the  crop is grown around Darjeeling in the Himalayan foothills.

“Most of the tea comes from high altitude areas in the tropics, where they get the same temperatures as Tasmania,” Gordon explains.

“If you look at Darjeeling for example, our temperature range is almost identical.

“But the biggest difference is rainfall, which is an advantage for us. Darjeeling can get up to 20ml of rain a day during their summer monsoons - which reduces the quality.”

The Browns planted their first tea crop in the mid 1990s using plants sourced from Japan.

They grow camellia sinensis, which is turned into both green and black tea, with all production on-site at their small farm.

Around 4,000 bushes now cover half a hectare, which produces 200 kilos every year.

The Browns’ tea adventure dates back to 1990 when Gordon – who has a master’s degree in agriculture and PhD in horticulture – was asked to research potential new Tasmanian crops, including tea, for the state Department of Agriculture.

“I fell in love with tea as a crop. It’s incredibly low risk, and extremely resilient,” he said.

“For example, if you grow cherries and it rains, you lose the crop and you have to wait another 12 months for your next one.

"With tea, the biggest risk is frost in the spring, but if you lose the crop, you have another one four weeks later.”

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Marketing goes mad. Meet the Game of Thrones whisky collection

Game of Thrones is an immensely popular fantasy television series. It is not something I have ever watched, or have any interest in watching, but its audience reach obviously makes it a hot branding property. 

Hence, to celebrate the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, spirits house Diageo and HBO have combined to release the limited-edition Game of Thrones Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection in Australia.

The Collection features seven Scotch whiskies paired with six of the iconic Houses of Westeros, as well as the Night’s Watch, giving fans an authentic taste of the Seven Kingdoms.

I have absolutely no idea what that means, but some of you might.

The Game of Thrones Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection is joined by the return of White Walker by Johnnie Walker, another limited-edition whisky in celebration of series, inspired by "the most enigmatic and feared characters" on Game of Thrones; the White Walkers.

Diageo says its unparalleled and diverse range of distilleries in Scotland, much like in Westeros, each have their own unique characteristics and produce a distinctive whisky representative of local terroir. 

These similarities (so the press release says) were the inspiration behind the collection, drawing an "authentic storyline" between each House and single malt pairing. 

“We are always trying to find fun and interesting ways to introduce our Scotch portfolio and what better way than partnering with Game of Thrones, one of the most successful TV series ever created," says Pedro Mendonca, who goes by the impressive title of Global Reserve Marketing & Malts Director

"We are thrilled to be celebrating the final season of the show by toasting with whiskies that authentically pay homage to some of the greatest characters and houses.” 

For more information visit 

Sorry. Your flight is delayed; the pilot is pie-eyed

Passengers on a recent Air Japan flight were delayed after the pilot failed a pre-flight breathalyser test.

The co-pilot, in his 40s, admitted he had consumed more than 10 cans of beer, two glasses of white wine and a bottle of red wine, although the drinking had ceased before the prescribed 12 hours before a flight under the rules of parent company ANA.

He was due to fly from Tokyo's Haneda airport to Hong Kong but was replaced. His punishment was not revealed.

After a spate of recent incidents of failed breath tests, Japan's ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism had warned airlines to tighten up rules and administer more stringent alcohol tests to pilots, the Travel Mole news website reported.
Several over-the-limit pilots have caused flight delays and damaged Japan's aviation image that included one pilot being jailed in the UK for being nine times over the alcohol limit.

That pilot, Katsutoshi Jitsukawa, 42, failed a breathalyser 50 minutes before he was due to fly a Boeing 777 from Heathrow Airport to Japan Airlines (JAL). He was jailed for 10 months.

Another Air Japan pilot failed a breath test in February prior to a flight from Narita International Airport to Yangon, Myanmar.

"We were not able to prevent a similar incident from occurring and we take it very seriously," ANA said in a statement.

Not reassuring. 

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Imagine flying from Sydney to London for the weekend

Flying from Sydney to London in four hours may sound the stuff of science fiction, but one British tech company believes it may soon be a reality.

The makers of a new hypersonic rocket engine say it could whisk flights from London to Sydney in just a fifth of the time it takes now; travelling at five times the speed of sound.

Such a flight would revolutionise global travel.

The BBC quotes Reaction Engines as saying it is gearing up to test the futuristic craft in Colorado.

The company, which has backing from the Rolls-Royce and Boeing, calls the new rocket engine the Sabre. It inhales air at lower altitudes but works more like a rocket when it gets higher up.

There are several press releases about the project - and dozens of news stories that are far too complex for my little brain to understand. Go to to learn more about the Sabre.